10 Reasons Why I Listen To Atheists

1. I believe that all voices should be free to speak and to be heard.
2. I believe that they are not afraid to ask some hard questions that I think need asking.
3. I believe that God cannot be scientifically or logically proven, as they insist.
4. I believe they have the ability to expose idiocy that has risen to the level of taboo.
5. I believe their critique of church life can be more objective, therefore more incisive.
6. I believe, as they argue, that the church and the state must be kept separate.
7. I believe I must respect even the strongest opponent of my views and beliefs.
8. I believe, since I have atheist friends, that most mean no harm.
9. I believe they can, like anyone, employ measures that threaten human liberties.
10. I believe that sometimes I have been one myself!

These are generalizations, since “atheist ” does not describe a cohesive, homogenous or unified group.

Darren Rowse over at Problogger is asking for submissions of lists, which partially inspired this one!

About David Hayward

David Hayward runs the blog nakedpastor as a graffiti artist on the walls of religion where he critiques religion… specifically Christianity and the church. He also runs the online community The Lasting Supper where people can help themselves discover, explore and live in spiritual freedom.

  • Jeff Roach

    Fantastic! Well said. I suspect #4 refers to the idiocy of the church?

  • Fred

    I listen to atheists because they are intrinsically valuable and worthwhile people. Everybody deserves to be listened to.

  • John

    There are SOME churches that are busy answering questions that are not being asked.

  • http://www.myspace.com/paulaharlow Paula

    Atheists ask questions that Christians are sometimes afraid to ask. These questions need to be asked.

  • John

    I’m not so sure that the church is “afraid” to ask these questions as much as they are out of touch with the world around them.

  • http://davidhayward.ca David Hayward

    Oh no, we are afraid… very afraid 8) Plus out of touch!

  • John

    BOO!

  • http://www.myspace.com/paulaharlow Paula

    I agree with you John – the church is definitely out of touch. Nonetheless, I also think the church is afraid to critically think about what they believe and don’t believe.

  • John

    My question then is this: What are they afraid of?

  • http://www.myspace.com/paulaharlow Paula

    They are afraid to question or challenge their beliefs. When one is faced with new information that calls his/her beliefs into question, it can be disconcerting. It causes internal conflict and can result in completely changing one’s views. The church does not want this. Maybe this is not due to fear – maybe this is a choice.

  • John

    I’m still not sure it is fear. To say “fear” is, to me, too simplistic.

    There are other reasons that are not based in fear:

    1. Ignorance
    2. Comfort
    3. Complacency
    4. Pride
    5. Arrogance
    6. Upbringing
    7. Indoctrination

    The danger is this: We are all susceptible to the above 7 – even in pursuit of truth.

  • sandy

    The question of challenging one’s own views is difficult- one holds one’s beliefs ’cause we think they are true- it’s only a very perspicacious person (or church) that can honestly challenge and change internal beliefs.

    Dave’s point is well made, that in order to see yourself better, it is helpful to have someone critiquing who doesn’t have the same rosy picture…

    Paula’s point is well made too- challenging internal beliefs usually leads to revolutions, as some want to stay the same and some embrace change… churches? well, we all know some that are more static than others…

    Now about this contest…Dave, since you have entered a couple of entries into these comments…are you eligible to win too?? Who’s drawing the ticket anyways?

  • Dave Kindred

    Nice picture!

  • http://www.myspace.com/paulaharlow Paula

    John, I definintely agree with you – fear is one of many reasons the church does not ask hard questions. Perhaps it is too simplistic.

  • Peter Fitch

    I value the idea that there are various levels or stages in spiritual growth, including M. Scott Peck’s normative progression: 1) not caring, 2) simplistic or concretized (fundamentalist) religion, 3) scepticism, 4) universal vision. Different people will understand #4 in different ways, but the main point is that scepticism can be an advance over a simplistic faith of do’s and don’ts, a black and white system with an overly judgmental deity. Perhaps some atheists are farther along a spiritual path than some believers . . .

  • hannah

    i like what you wrote. I think sometimes that people, athiest or not, try to look at God as something they can conguer, understand, figure out. You can’t. And, I’m really glad we can’t either. because if i could, I doubt I would need Him as much.

  • Pete Johns

    On behalf of my fellow athiests, thank you for keeping an open mind.

    I cannot tell you how nice it is to hear a religious person say, “I believe, as they argue, that the church and the state must be kept separate.”

    Kudos.

  • Jeff Roach

    John’s point #7 sums it all up. The more fundamentalist a church gets the more it becomes a mere propaganda machine holding to cliches like “be in the world not of it”, “love the sinner, hate the sin”, and “you don’t understand because you don’t have faith”. Remember ‘Doubting Thomas’ (is he related to the boy who cried wolf?)? That’s what um talking ’bout.

    Why else would so many be afraid of secular media, institutions, vices and the like if not to immerse themselves in their own supportive cocoon and insulate themselves from alternative influences? I had a student in the Navigators with me at UNB, when I attended there a moon ago, tell me he used to love listening to U2 but now he only listens to “Christian music. You know, stuff you buy at the Christian book store.”

    (That was actually a significant moment for me because I now realize that it marks the time when I began to realize something was seriously wrong with the religious world.)

    All complete bunk, really, and contrary to any real pursuit of “truth”. In fact, the religious mind runs so contrary to one in pursuit of truth that its subjects should be disqualified from using the word.

    Anyone who wants a true understanding of the meaning of life, love, god, and the cosmos can’t limit themselves within the fear that religion, by definition, creates.

    Now following Jesus’ teachings, ironically for some, is a different story…

  • Wendy

    I used to ask a lot of hard questions when I was beginning my journey…but not so within our church…I got the feeling that people were bored with the dumb questions of a newbie Christian…

    Also, I still have questions! I admit as of late I am afraid to ask…why…because I may not like the answers…then what??

    The questions I had starting out are different now…but they are defining who I am as a Christian and the journey I continue to walk.

    On a side note, I guess I find it somewhat surprising that Christians have to justify why they would listen to an atheist…I mean weren’t we all at some point in our life? Their just people…not the boogey man.

    After all, what does that say about our faith if we are so closed in that we can’t be challenged? I hope our church/faith is built on a firm foundation and not a house of cards. If it does fall…it was never real.

  • John

    I find it refreshing to listen and discuss with an atheist.

    Lets admit! It is entertaining to listen to a “embedded – narrow minded – know it all” Christian. It is so easy to yank their proverbial religious chain!

    If you havent tried it – try it – you’ll like it!

  • Jo McCullough

    Atheists are as convinced of their beliefs as the worst of fundamentalists. You can not know. But you can believe and explore and hope and live and feel the wind. You can despair and rejoice. You can have Faith. You can see that 2 people have more power than one alone. That is a Higher Power.

    Spirituality is what is missing.

  • http://davidhayward.ca David Hayward

    Jeff: “idiocy” is not just a virtue of the church.

  • Jeff Roach

    That may be true, Jo, but I think more often we are talking about agnostics, not athiests.

    I am absolutely convinced that I don’t have all of the answers and absolutely terrified by people who think they do.

  • John

    Ahhh now we know where the real fear is!

    Jeff the terrified! Sounds like a insecure superhero. (Just joking Jeff – its been a long day!)

    Those people who think they know everything entertain me!

  • joni

    5. I believe their critique of church life can be more objective, therefore more incisive.

    I so agree with this.

  • Marilyn Singh

    To your point Peter (Fitch), a very dear friend of mine has become an athiest over the last 5 years or so. His level of faith sometimes astounds me. He says that he really misses God, he misses having someone to thank. Profound.

  • steve witt

    i like the painting…when will it arrive? :)

  • http://davidhayward.ca David Hayward

    Steve: now there’s confidence! 8)

  • Shirah

    A friend of mine preached once about how he likes atheists better than luke-warm Christians because at least they’re willing to stand up for something….

    But I guess my beef with it all is that I hate the way we feel the need to put ourselves, and everyone else, in categories. Us, them and the others. I don’t want people to assume they know what I think, believe or how I act simply because I allow them to place the ‘Christian’ banner over my head. And so I cannot assume that I know what an ‘atheist’ thinks, believes or how they act…

    Every experience is a chance to learn… so not listening to atheists could be quite detrimental to your growth as a human, much less as a Christian…

    that’s about it for now.

  • John F

    OK I’m in this for the painting too. I love free stuff.

    I admit I have been in a place in my life where the narrow view was how I understood the narrow road. I guess I was trying to fit in. I’ve decided to pursue “real” lately. I like it. And unlike John, I cannot abide with folks who think they have ALL the answers, though I think I spent a period of time there myself. Probably why it bugs me.

  • Adam

    i def like the thoughts dave… i agree with every one of them (not sure about #3 actually). i was hoping to see more argumentative responses to your pos! i am disappointed… that’s probs because you don’t have any TRUE christian friends! haha.. that was a joke everyone! chillllllll.. we need more christians like your friends… THINKING FOR THEMSELVES!!!

    also, i think a big reason why people don’t ask questions in church is because it is all to often not a safe place to be vulnerable… i say that from experience…

    can you autograph the painting Dave… have it say… “To My Dear Friend Adam”.. peace

  • jake

    I disagree with #3:

    3. I believe that God cannot be scientifically or logically proven, as they insist.

    This depends on what you consider God to be. If you see God as the entity depicted in the Old Testament, then yes I agree, but if you see God as living within oneself, and representing a state of spiritual satisfaction, then I believe everyone has personal belief and proof of God. The trouble is a lot of people don’t bother to explore what God is, and are burdened by a very poor, illogical, literalist substitute.

    If you speak of the former, then yes I am an atheist, if you speak of the latter, I am not, but my God is not something I worship, obey, listen to or who directs my life. It is simply a peaceful place I visit in my soul (my soul being not an immortal presence, which I don’t believe exists, but rather my most honest and deepest self)

  • jake

    Jo McCullough,

    You say an atheist lacks spirituality. That is an uninformed, narrowminded bigoted response. Educate thyself before spouting off.

  • dan

    i agree with comment 30, to an extent. i believe in god, but i find no spiritual satisfaction with god. this all depends on your definition of what you believe god is though. i believe in quantum theory, which has been, and is constantly being proven. can’t see it but im affected by it. maybe we have just labeled a scientific theory with human traits because its more fluffy that way. i’m not saying i know. just a different viewpoint.

  • Chad

    Pardon me as I stir the pot a little in my quest for free stuff…

    Is it possible, sometimes, that we “lovers-but-critics” of the church swing the pendulum too far to the other side – romanticizing atheists and skeptics while almost villainizing the Church? (The term itself has practically taken on a shady, conspiritorial tone, like “The Man.”)

    It’s true, as many people here have pointed out, that people who don’t share your beliefs can sometimes offer more clear-headed criticisms. But some non-believers are as narrow-minded and dogmatic as the most zealous fundamentalist, and some Christians are actually open-minded, welcoming of questions, and dare I say intelligent thinkers. (I know a few… some even hang out around here!)

    Just a thought… how many people who consider themselves believers would feel terribly uncomfortable about broadly labelling atheists as “fearful” and “out of touch”… and yet have no problems tossing those same blanket statements on the church?

  • Jeff Roach

    John F – I love your comment about narrow view and narrow road (#30).

    Chad – The church IS equivocal to “the Man”. This is the church’s great fear: that people are personalizing religion to themselves and that is a “frightening” and appalling thought for protectors and apologists.

    With that in mind, sharp attacks of the church, although made up of individuals, are warranted and intentional, at least from me because it is the authoritarian collective that the individuals subscribe to that is such a cancer to humanity.

    But I do not intend to attack individuals on their own journey despite my disagreement with their views on support for the collective and its perceived authority in their lives.

  • http://www.myspace.com/natelovesliver Nate

    Excellent post. The reasons you give are excellent, and I agree with most of them. The only points which I’d be likely to question for myself are 3 and 6.

    I am agnostic as to whether God can or cannot be scientifically or logically proven. If I had to present an opinion it would be that all God’s universe, including both the spiritual and physical aspects follow systematic and orderly laws, and that truth, once found, is consistent and reasonable both intellectually and emotionally. I do concede that it is difficult or impossible to prove anything intellectually or scientifically that one is emotionally unwilling to accept. One’s emotions, such as unwillingness to be wrong, the comfort of old beliefs, the fear of stepping out from the familiar into the unknown, keep Christians and Athiests alike from seeing what might be true in the other side’s beliefs, or what might be false in their own.

    As to the seperation of church and state, I’m not sure if I’m confident that either, as they currently exist, need to exist at all. Although there are probably governmental and institutional structures that can operate in a manner consistant with God’s laws of harmony and love, as they stand now they are thoroughly saturated with flawed and inharmonious principles, which makes them for all intents and purposes, human instutions.

    Anyways, the quality that I am most willing to condemn in Athiest, Christian, Scientist, or adherent of any other religion alike, is dogmatism. Dogmatism is the insistance that one already has all the answers, therefore all other viewpoints are wrong and not worth listening to. The truth is already found therefore there is no desire to seek for or even find truth. The opposite of dogmatism, in my opinion is humility, and willingness and desire to learn, which of necessity includes the acknowledgement that one does not already know everything.

    It is dogmatism that makes it seem that God is impossible to find, that the spiritual is impossible to prove, that the universe is not orderly and rational. In Science, it makes one refuse to see signs of design and purpose in the universe, or admit the possiblity of life after death, God, or anything that we do not currently know or understand. In Christianity, it keeps people from questioning or changing cherished but flawed beliefs, from listening to and finding out what is true and what is false in everything, from discovering what underlying assumptions are taken for granted as true, when they might not be.

    To connect this to some of the previous discussions, I see some traces of dogmatism in Harpur’s work. He has been in the habit of merely wanting to make his position popularized and known among people who do not have the tools to decide the truth of his statements, and rejected criticism from anyone who might be able to offer it. From listening to his arguements and to those of others I see statements which seem obviously true (i.e. there have been lots of pagan influences on christianity) and others fundamental to his position which seem obviously false (i.e. that Jesus did not exist). Harpur’s arguements for the confabulation of Jesus’ existance are interesting and worth-noting, but the evidence for his position does not convince me or many other’s, and needs to be weighed and compared against evidence for Jesus’ existance, and a decision can be made (provisionally) based on the evidence which we currently have. Of course one always has to admit the possibility that as more evidence is found and better theories are extrapolated to explain the current evidence, one might be wrong.

    In the case of Harpur’s theory (that Jesus didn’t exist, and that deliberate efforts have been made to choose to make the myths interpreted literally), his evidence is not as convincing or as extensive as the evidence for Jesus having been a real person, on whom a certain religious and political systems have been formed and which have embellished, perverted, and developed certain aspects, with intentions both deliberate and unintentional. This position is more consistant with reason and with the evidence. Harpur (and Kuhn) seem to reject Christianity as a hoax and seek to replace it with gnostism or early egyptian mystery religion. I do not find his work to honest in its desire to find out historical truth or gather and examine evidence and question everything, but hastily seeks to tout his opinions and theories as a new (old) gospel, rather then add his observations, theories, and hypotheses to the growing pool of knowledge and speculation, and allow the evidence and theories to speak for themselves. If a new theory offers a simpler explanation which explains more phenomena, and is superior in other ways to other theories, then eventually it will be adopted, that is if there are enough people who are willing to abandon their dogma and recognize the superiority of the new theory. Harpur jumps the gun and tries to sell his theories to the general public without the due course of scholarship, and that seems to be his main criticism from other scholars.

    Anyways, I appreciate what I see on these pages, which seems to be serious discussion of difficult topics, and a desire on the part of many individuals to find truth and God, rather then just accept or reject automatically the views of an individual, or even of themselves. Keep up the good work.

  • Chad

    I hear what you’re saying, Jeff, and I agree that a lot of harm has been done and is still being done in the name of authoritarianism disguised as or excused by religion.

    But the point I was trying to make is, I think making sweeping statements about “The Church” is like talking about “the atheists” or “the homosexuals” – it’s a damaging stereotype that ignores the diversity within.

    The church I attend looks very different than the one three minutes down the road, and the larger church body I belong to has little in common with the type of 10,000 member megachurches below the border that fly giant American flags and preach that God’s 100 per cent in favour of bombing Iraq. Even within my own church, I have a fairly visible role – leading worship, working with youth and sometimes preaching – but I don’t ever feel pressured to think or act just like the pastors do. We differ in lots of areas, yet I don’t think any of us feel threatened by that.

    I’m sure, from your comments, that your experience of church has been very different from mine. And I’m not trying to discount your opinion at all or downplay the damage that religion has done in countless lives. I’m hardly a blind cheerleader of this thing we call the church; lots of things about it drive me crazy. But I also know that sometimes I’m too arrogant and quick to judge something that I know God still loves, despite all its flaws. After all, how could I expect the church to be perfect when it’s populated by screwed-up people like me?

  • John

    Chad says: “But I also know that sometimes I’m too arrogant and quick to judge something that I know God still loves, despite all its flaws. After all, how could I expect the church to be perfect when it’s populated by screwed-up people like me?”

    Now that is a great statement that deserves discussion!

  • Jill Esmailion

    One of the best blogs yet………..how about a new list. 10 reasons why I listen………… Thats what I’m workin on.

  • Brian M

    Not one to pass up free art, even while on holidays, I’ll just add that I’m getting David’s list put on my back as my first tattoo.

    Second, I’ll just jump in here with Chad and say that I’m finding it amusing that lots of people are talking about ‘the Church’ the way I hear ‘the Church’ (yes, I know I’m doing it too)talk about the ‘Gay agenda’ or ‘the atheists’ as if there’s some back room meeting that takes place between some group who decides things about what will and won’t happen or how we’ll all be (in any of those groups). There’s a Kingdom but I think ‘the Church’ is a pretty slippery critter to actually grab ahold of these days. I think a lot of our criticisms relate more to our past experiences with people in institutions (a church) rather than what really is. It’s like the old joke about the guy rescued from the desert island who explained that the first hut was the church he attended and the other hut was the church he used to go to. I think Pogo had it right.

    “To Brian” is good enough for me David, thanks.
    Brilliant blogging!

  • Jeff Roach

    Chad, I actually have had a fantastic experience in the church. I still attend RV occasionally in Rothesay and I have very good friends there including David – who I speak to, oh, what would you say Dave, 10-30 times a day? So my anti-church opinion isn’t based on a poor personal experience. In fact, I wish I didn’t have any problems with the church. That would be easier for me.

    Church works for me when it is spiritually-focused people-focused, love-focused. What makes me skwirm is when it occurs to me that the people around me believe a lot of this mythology is actual human history. That a physical Jesus – who I believe really lived and taught etc., btw – really rose from the dead and sits at the right hand of the “father” etc. For me this is delusional and an unnecessary reach for intelligent humans.

    Jesus lived, taught, loved, suffered, and asked us to follow him and his teachings tell stories that my heart understands. It helps me understand the spritual side of life that words can rarely express effectively. This is the brilliane of Jesus of Nazareth and why so many of us consider him the greatest human in history.

    But the supernatural aspects of the gospels are not a literal history and there is more evidence of this fabrication than there is of its historical truth, despite the attacks one might like to inflict on Harpur.

    As 1 Corinthians 13:11 says “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” Shouldn’t we grow up at some point and let the teachings of Jesus inform our spiritual lives and stop believing these fairy tales as “truth” as if that even mattered?

    Does the story of the boy who cried wolf teach you not to misrepresnt an emergency lest you get in real trouble and find no one will help you? Imagine if a “church” found evidence that the boy and the wolf actually lived and the boy descended into “hell” as an example from God to all who offend the 911 system!

    It is the continued deception of “the church” that so offends me. The naivete of the churches people does not offend me in the same way. But when world leaders with nuclear weapons, as an extreme example, make serious global decisions because they believe their mythology to be history and their intuition to be the voice of the invisible man in the sky directing their actions – that makes me terrified! That the church – as well as mosque and synagogue – doesn’t have a problem with this is a nightmare for humanity.

  • anne

    Chad, you said it the best! (comments 35 & 38) and oh, John in 39! What drives me a bit nuts about this country is that Canadians are so quick to critisize themselves, we’re the bad ones so we have to throw out all our values so that new comers will fit in and not be challenged. That’s why in some places like Toronto, Christmas cannot be called by that name that but rather Winter Holidays… I love God with all my heart, and I am childish enough to believe his promises. Everyone’s an asshole and in need of His grace, and when I see myself and my shortcomings, I have a hard time critisizing others, even fundamentalists. God loves us all, and even believes in Atheists even if they don’t believe in him! It is easy pointing fingers, maybe more so at our Christian brothers and sisters. We all see through a dark glass dimly, but God sees us as we truly are and want to be! Thank God!

  • John F

    Right on Anne….and John in 39 and Chad in 38 for saying it in the first place (sound like room or cell numbers). You gotta love grace….I love grace. It’s what I love about God. I believe that’s the reason I have no beef against anyone trying to figure out this strange world we live in, whether Christian or atheist or anything else. But Brian in 41….I’ll take the T-shirt….tattoos are too painful. Besides, I may change my mind someday.

  • John

    Tattoos…just got one in the fall. Now, there is a touchy topic for the “church”! Actually my daughter and I went together!

  • Fred

    Now how about a decent piercing?

  • Jeff Roach

    Get a tattoo of a bar code. See how that stirs the end-of-days crowd!

  • anne

    This is getting weird, now we’re on to tattoos! It’s like we’re one big, happy family who just want to chat! It’s great!! I wonder if we will up our chances of winning the more we blog back…., or is that what this is called?

  • Wendy

    Jeff, I appreciate your comments because I can now better understand your position. So you don’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus?

    So do you just pick and choose what feels right to you in the Bible to believe or follow? I ask that with respect for your opinion…not as a judgement.

    Because, this is something I am really struggling with personally. How we as a community that appears to believe in Jesus, follow Jesus, seem to create our own understanding of what it is we will do or not do based on what is written within the pages of the Bible.

    We make Jesus fit our lifestyle…justifying actions or belief with scripture that leave others scratching their heads…but it fascinates me how we are all so different yet passionate about our walk of following Jesus.

  • Jeff Roach

    Well, actually, yes I do, Wendy. Jesus teachings are one of many sources of spiritual wisdom that I enjoy and use to inform my spiritual path. But I believe the supernatural acounts in the Bible are mythology, not historical fact and they affect me as such.

    I don’t use mythology to mean “fairy tale” as some will take it. Mythology has been a good thing throughout history that has helped humans understand spritual matters and has brought communities together. For example, the Roman empire was held together by its mythology but I suspect many if not most undestood that their belief in their gods were largely symbolic and not “true”. But their mytholoy sustained their empire, their society, and likely informed the spiritual understanding of the world for many people.

  • John

    This “fear” issue being attached to the “organized” church – the ones who are “afraid to ask questions – are an easy target to cover a fear that may reside within the accusor.

    Maybe – just maybe – the “open, religious free” ones who go deeper in their search are “afraid” of settling with a uncompromising truth.

    We all come to the table with fear – sometimes we can mask our own by saying we are “open minded”.

    Just a thought!

  • Julia

    Yeah, yeah, we love the athiest. Is there anyone else we’re forgetting?

    Let’s see whose side God’s on when we see who the winner is (ha).

  • Jill Esmailion

    How about a definition of “the church”? I’m thinking that considering all the different experiences and relationships represented, we would do well to work from a common understanding, or is that possible.

  • sandy

    we have seen the enemy and he is us

  • John F

    Julia in cell 52: Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!

  • Jeff Roach

    I suppose, Julia. Except some of us aren’t waiting for a day like that to arrive. And what makes you think that it will?

  • John

    Jeff…one day the end will co

  • John

    Dave…you corrected my message….i didnt finish the …”me” on come on purpose….my sick sense of humour…as if the end came before i finshed my sentence. It is the end of a long day….

  • Sarah

    I’m not responding to any one comment here (as there are a million ideas that i could respond to) but i do wonder if the element of spirituality in all of us is just expressed differently …knowing that only God knows the heart… what we, “the church”, judge to be atheistic (excluding self proclaimed atheism)is actually who god made that person to be. I love the line from a hysterical movie called ‘saved’ where Mary the main character says, “why would God make us all so different if he wanted us to look uniform”. Maybe those who appear (to some) to not believe, actually do, in their own expression. Just a thought.

    ps. i just responded to win a painting…and also, i love the comment way back there somewhere where our talk of “the church” is compared to “the man”…good call.

  • http://davidhayward.ca David Hayward

    sorry! i’ll fix it. ya, that’s funny! Hey… send your older brother some more tobacco!

  • John

    Are you finished your tabacco already? Just was given a beautiful Dominican cigar – with some nice cognac…

  • Ann B

    Hi all! Some will recognise who I am…anyway here goes!
    I have read all the comments etc. i am just wondering could I have a definition of an “Atheist” and of “the church”? Is an atheist someone who through their own scientific deduction has come to the conclusion that there is no God? Or what??
    I also wonder about the “church”? There are so many intreprations of the word. I have in my life time attended many churches and I do know tyhe biblical meaning of the word, but in the “christian” world there are so many factions and every one of them believing that they hold a corner on the truth!
    anyway thats all for now. By the way David, I have a perfect spot for that picture on my wall…And also it will remind me of the wonderful years I spent in Canada.
    PS looking forward to your blog on church splits!

  • Stan

    Nice painting David.

    I was an atheist and then a seeker and then on December 8, 1987 I was born-again. If you have not been born-again you can not understand what that event means. Only a believer experiences the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The truth is you either are or are not a believer. There is no grey area. I do know the atheistic experience well, but how well do any of you know what it means to be a follower of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? There are no rude comments or any intellectual BS that can cause my faith to crumble. The world hates Jesus and will hate those who follow Him as well. There is only one center of the universe and it isn’t you! If one does not believe in the ressurection but believes that Jesus’ teaching was great stuff, then I question why someone would subscribe to the teachings of a liar. Jesus not only said He was God, but also said he would rise on the third day.

  • Julia

    Re: #56 (Jeff)
    What day? Clarify.

  • Fred

    Re: Reply #59…”acknowledging fear.” Hmmm…that seems more honest than denying a fear. It also seems more objective. I can “fear you” but listen to you in spite of my fear. Or I can pretend I have no fear of you whatsoever, and probably listen to you but while I’m “listening to you” I’m really just thinking about how I’m planning to respond…

  • Fred

    Also, there are different kind of atheists, and I would tend to listen more carefully to some than others…just like there are certain Christians I would tend to listen to more than others…

  • Richard Mullin

    If Christians are afraid of dialogue about serious & sensible questions from athiests than are they really much different than the Taliban.(?)

  • Mark F

    Re:60, 61

    Yeah I agree with Dave…send some more so he can be a “real” christian and share his weed…ha ha ha… I can’t believe I’m leaving this post, but finally something I can relate too…so much much for “can’t and won’t”

  • Allan

    Couldn’t resist comment..I think and say I am an atheist…but when times are tough I am guilty of looking for something I think and say isn’t there…..strange….is this an innate or learnt behavior…agnostic..maybe….One thing I am sure I can relate to David through his artwork…which would in a weird sort of way speak to a commonality in our believe systems….maybe…interesting….

  • Nicole

    I’d like to say pretty much what Pete Johns said (in comment 17), except that I’m closer to agnosticism than atheism.

    Thank you.

  • Fred

    Nicole, would you say you are a “weak atheist” or “ignostic”?

  • Jeff Roach

    Well Stan, it seems like you have it all together (#63). You have had all of the same experiences as the rest of us and now have such amazing clarity! And no grey areas to speak of!

  • Nicole

    I’d say I’m agnostic, but if forced to choose one of the things I don’t think I can know about I’d be more likely to choose atheism than any particular deity.

  • steve Thomas

    There was a time in my life when I didn’t believe in God, and thought any one that did was somewhat a fool!
    I put God in the same category as Santa clause and the Easter Bunny, another lie parents conjured up to keep the kids in line.
    It wasn’t until I was out on my own 16 or 17 years of age in Long Beach Ca. I started reading the Bible!
    Wow! This book is full of Great stories! Could they possibly be true?
    I like Doug’s argument concerning atheist “ I refuse to believe they exist! After all isn’t that their argument?”
    I’ve heard it said that there are no atheist on a plane that is about to crash, I’m not sure I believe that but the point is well expressed in that scenario, or if I were still a confirmed atheist would that be enough to convert me? Being a father of seven children I know that if anything could make an atheist look to heaven and ask …God if you are there…..it would be a critically ill child , that’s what I did, and guess what He was there!
    My challenge to all you atheist out there, (if you are there) look to heaven and challenge God to prove to you, that He is there!
    I now read the Bible as a living history book not just a book filled with great stories or “Mythology”
    I believe in a God that can look out into utter darkness and speak the words “let there be light “ and immediately billions of suns burst into existence (and continue to do so) and, one who knows our every thought.
    If God can do that how hard is a little water from a rock,parting the Red Sea or raising the dead?

  • Fred

    Then again, I know an atheist who “tried to be” a Christian. He “tried to believe.” Was his effort sincere? Who am I to say?

    Maybe I should just become a Calvinist.

  • Jeff Roach

    But Steve, aren’t you basically saying that god exists because you NEED him to exist? Let’s assume there is a great spirit – a god – a spirit of love that does have some influence over the universe. How do you make the leap from what your life has witnessed and your heart has felt to the tales of the Bible?

    I understand faith. As an agnostic, I have some. But I can’t let that sense for a great power and a sprit world beyond my comprehension lead me to believe in something I find absolutely ridiculous and plenty of evidence of its manufacture.

    On a crashing plane or holding an ill child, I would pray. I would reach out to the spirit of love I have always known. But under this stress, I can’t imagine why my mind would twist itself into believing the christian myth any more than it would Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.

  • Stan

    Jeff by no means do I have it all together nor are there non-grey areas. I struggle. I just don’t struggle with the question of is there or isn’t there a God in charge and that I do have purpose in life. As an atheist there simply was no question that there is no god, as an agnostic (seeker) there was question and as of the date mentioned above there is no question that there really is a God. The only difference between the first and last questions being my own version of the Apostle Pauls experience on the road to Damascus and consequent belief. From my viewpoint right now I say I can never ever not believe.

    For whatever reason some of my atheist friends prefer not to talk about spiritual matters and I honor that. I let them initiate spiritual conversation. I’m certainly thankful that what I considered “religious” folks talked to me when I was an atheist, even though at the time I thought they were full of it.

  • robin ellingwood

    Chad: I love your thoughts.

    Dave: I love your painting.

  • Fred

    Jeff Roach:

    So you’re saying that “something may be out there” but we CANNOT know what it/he/she is?

    I think the average person goes through more of a process than a leap from “something’s out there” to “it must be Jesus!”

  • anne

    Ah, now I know what agnostic means, it sounded like some fancy cheesecake…
    Only the Holy Spirit can convince man about God’s excistence, although the bible says we are without excuse as creation bears witness of him. We can see his handywork all around us. The bible also tells us that “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1.Cor.2:14
    God is not trying to hide from us, but he doesn’t barge in either. He respects our decition to keep him away or to invite him into our lives. He couldn’t love us more either way. But it is when we allow him to meet with us and we fully give ourselves to him, that all doubt is removed. I know fully well he is alive and kicking. I believe scripture is God- breathed and is proven correct historically again and again. Try Him, you’ll like Him!

  • John

    Jeff R says: “the Roman empire was held together by its mythology but I suspect many if not most undestood that their belief in their gods were largely symbolic and not “true”. But their mytholoy sustained their empire, their society, and likely informed the spiritual understanding of the world for many people.”

    If it was mythology that “sustained” the empire and society – along with the spiritual – what sustains us? A myth? That is a discouraging thought.

  • steve Thomas

    Jeff
    I can’t help feeling you are playing the devils advocate to some degree!
    To answer your question no! God exists because! . My need doesn’t enter into the equation.
    I never “needed’ God to exist I was looking for the truth, period.
    You say you understand faith? I say faith is the main ingredient you are lacking!
    Those “tales of the Bible” as you so smugly put it are saturated with profound truths you can find nowhere else in literature, furthermore it’s not your mind that needs twisting, its your soul! Your spirit!
    Faith has little or nothing to do with head knowledge and everything to do with heart knowledge.
    Test God that’s all I ask, allow him to prove to you that He is who He says He is, you are obviously an intelligent person don’t let that rob you of your ability to believe in God!

  • John

    Is Jeff just yanking the chain here?

  • Fred

    “Agnostic cheesecake”? Mmmm…sounds delicious!

  • steve Thomas

    Jeff,
    Sorry if that came off a bit harsh or sounded somewhat bitter,
    But you need to appreciate the frustration a true believer has when talking with an Agnostic!
    What you refer to as tales of the Bible or mythology is my entire belief system!
    These are not simply heart-warming stories with a great moral ending!
    The Bible is not to be compared with Aesop or the brothers Grimm!
    I really don’t get it with Agnostics it’s like …I believe with a disclaimer
    You are missing it by so little! It’s as Though your father has given you a beautiful house and your walking around with the key saying “ I don’t believe this is the actual key to that house!
    Meanwhile you’re living on the street in a cardboard shelter!
    Albeit With great dignity because you didn’t appear gullible enough to try the key in the lock.

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  • TB

    Number SIX, Number SIX, NUMBER SIX! There must not be a state religion in America, and I fear we are heading towards it.

    Of everything out there to be afriad of, this should be close to the top of your lists.

  • silverfoot

    ‘mythology’ is an interesting word… people often use the word ‘myth’ to refer to something that is false. but that is not the essence of myth… myths are the stories we tell to articulate the truths of our lives, our beliefs, and our values – we tell stories to describe who and where and when we are. calling a story a myth is not the same as saying that story isn’t true; to the contrary, it is testifying that an essential Truth rests at its very core.

    further up, there was a comment about the restrictiveness of labels that i must agree with. long ago, i learned not to judge a person by the religion they professed to follow, nor to judge a religion by the people who professed to follow it.

    but to the original topic, the reason why i listen to Atheists, is because sometimes someone as articulate Penn Gillette has a marvelous take on the subject. you can read or listen to it here:

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5015557&ft=1&f=1021

  • Alison Lane

    This hits close to home for us because my husband’s aunt is an atheist. It used to make me feel very uncomfortable to be around her, as all my family is Christian but then I began to pray for her. God showed me that to show her Christ means to love her. Once I grasped that concept, I found myself reaching out to her. We can’t make atheists believe in God but the more we show His love to others, the more they may question why they believe the way they do and long for something better.

  • Wilma

    Wow! I have been reading your comments but there is not time to read them all. I agree with most of what I have read but I believe most of us are trying too hard to figure out God and have too much religion. Jesus is our example and we should love all no matter the differences. I fall short in so many ways but I thank the Lord for his mercy and grace.

    David, Love, from the South, USA.

  • Fred

    TB (#87) emphasizes the separation of church and state. I agree completely. The marriage of the two corrupts them both.

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  • Susan

    Hot topic David, I enjoyed reading everyones comments, some people really put alot of heart and soul into this.

  • Kathy Mullin

    I think God is big enough to handle all of our questions and may not need us to defend him. He is able to meet people on whatever level they need Him to, atheist or believer. I think you’re brave, David, to explore difficult questions and difficult topics. That in itself takes faith.

  • http://www.loftimageandsound.com Stephen Mullin

    I’ve got a spot on my wall, so here’s my input – rather late in the game I see . . .

    To comment directly on your “Ten Reasons Why I Talk to Atheists” – the working assumption confuses me – who doesn’t talk to Atheists?

    I genuinely do not understand the underlying premise of your question – though in asking it, you have obviously stirred up quite a discussion.

    One of the big themes of that ensuing discussion, is the criticizing of the church in all of its closed minded glory. By my count, 10 of the furst 20 entries) Who is in this closed minded church if it is not 85% of the people posting here on David’s blog? You mostly seem like a group rather able to think and discuss things. If you all contribute to the dialogues in your own churches as enthusiastically as you have contributed here, I should think that you are either very unpopular in your churches, or they are not as closed minded as many of you pretend that they are. Or perhaps it the “other” churches that are a problem – flag waving American mega churches or “Pipe Organ playing incence burning” churches that are closed minded? If so, surely focusing on those external clichés just provides a way of righting off whole segments of the church body because it doesn’t look like what you want it to look like. Forgive me if I’m out of line. I don’t know any of you (except for Richard and Kathy of course).

    Anyway, I think that Christians should make a point of going to church, and of trying to find a church that is not EXACTLY like what they want it to be. Find a place that’s a bit broken – and help to fix it. If they wave too many flags than maybe it would be good to bring your elevated ideas to the table, get to know the group, and see if you can help them put their flag waving energies into more worthy causes.

    You just all sound like such potentially excellent contributors to the church. I really hope that you go to this broken church regularly and do your part to fix it up. It’s just that nothing is more tedious than reading the criticism of critics who aren’t up for the work of enabling the solutions they think the group so desperatly needs.

    I hope you’re all up for it.

  • Colin

    Since I plugged your blog today during the annnouncements thot I’d better comment on it too. Besides I like your paintings.
    I know and love the Lord and have for many years. I agree with Stan #63, there is no grey area when the Holy Spirit comes into your heart. It is personal, as Steve and Anne and others have said. If you haven’t experienced it you’re at a serious disadvantage in debating it. I’m afraid we humans tend to think too highly of our ability to reason. Like the created elevating himself to, or above, the Creator. I like Jesus’ references to little children. He said, “unless you become as a little child you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven”. He meant in faith. Oswald Chambers wrote, “a child-mind is the only mind to which God can appeal” and “The child-heart is open to any and all avenues; an angel would no more surprise it than a man. In dreams, in visions, in visible and invisible ways, God can talk and reveal Himself to a child; but this profound yet simple way is lost forever immediately we lose the child-like nature.”

  • http://davidhayward.ca David Hayward

    Stephen: thanks so much for your comment. Appreciated! But I said, “Listen” to atheists, not “talk” to atheists. I agree that critics should be involved, somehow, in that which they criticize. I’m going to post about that one day soon. Chomsky believed it took far more courage , say, for American journalists to criticize their own country’s injustices than it was for them to criticize other’s. I think he’s right to some extent.

  • John

    Hmmmm…. to explore difficult questions and difficult topics is not a matter of faith as it is a matter of desiring knowledge.

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  • Steve Thomas

    Congratulations Richard!
    And thanks for the incentive Dave,
    It was certainly a great topic for debate.
    I think we sometimes need a little incentive to persuade us that our opinions do matter

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  • http://www.respiromedia.com Respiro the logo design guy

    The most important question is: what has God to say about atheism?…

    We can tell them about Jesus, about the Gospel and [why not] about the Old Testament, but the One who’ll have to convince them is the Holy Spirit.

    Respiro
    http://www.RespiroMedia.com


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